A former employee of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Peter Michael Ketcham, who worked at NIST from 1997 until 2011, wrote this letter (below) to the editor of Europhysics News last week. NIST is the government agency tasked with investigating how the Twin Towers collapsed. Ketcham is calling NIST out for its failure to, well, investigate. I use the NIST report in Locus Amoenus, where I say it is, “nothing but fermented blend of preconception and irrelevance.” My hero Hamlet (whose father died on 9/11 and whose new stepfather worked for NIST) is furious when he discovers this, furious with himself, his stepfather and his mother, with everybody for being so easily hoodwinked. Here is Ketcham’s reaction: Continue reading
Locus Amoenus by Victoria N. Alexander centers upon the bucolic county seat of Amenia in upstate New York where Gertrude and her son Hamlet make their home after the horror of 9/11 deprived them of husband and father respectively. Seeking a new start in the rural quiet, Gertrude purchases a sheep farm where they intend to live a sustainable lifestyle butchering their own livestock, growing vegetables, and eschewing the material trappings and celebrity-devotion of the modern world. The Webutuck school district, where Hamlet attends classes, greet Gertrude’s healthy food campaign with suspicion and distrust; populated by overweight teachers overseeing equally rotund students, they are all fed on processed, Continue reading
Locus Amoenus, 9/11 novel by Victoria N. Alexander, has been nominated for the 2016 Dayton Literary Peace Prize. Since 2007, the DLPP has awarded $10,000 each year. Previous recipients include, Bob Shacochis for The Woman Who Lost Her Soul, Junot Díaz for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and Francine Prose for A Changed Man. The 2016 winner will be announced in September.
Next month, I will be talking to a group of anti-war activists about the role of literary fiction in undermining the bad narratives that prevent critical thinking. I look to my favorite political satirist, Mark Twain, as an example.
When Huck Finn ponders whether or not he should turn in his friend Jim, a runaway slave, he is deeply conflicted. Good Christian society of the day has taught him that slavery is sanctioned by God. Huck truly believes that to help Jim escape would be immoral. But he decides, “All right then, I’ll go to hell.”
It’s moments like this in literature that serve humankind best in its often-halting progress toward tolerance and peace. Throughout history, good, decent people routinely condone revenge, segregation, greed, fascism and war, simply because they follow those they admire most. Every era has its own peculiar blindness, and going against complacency and conformity can be more difficult than directly confronting tyrants themselves. It is often a disenfranchised voice, such as Huck’s, that awakens the literature of a nation, makes it more self-critical. Sometimes the voice needs an author—a humorist, a poet, or a good story-teller—to help him speak in a way that he can’t be ignored or further ostracized. Continue reading
“A Fictional account combining elements of our post 9/11 culture of conflicting realities and the plot of Shakespeare’s Hamlet; set in a small town environs of New York State. Locus Amoenus, a “safe place”, turns out to be anything but! Victoria Alexander gives us samples of the book while explaining the elements that went into the creative project.“
The new novel by Victoria N. Alexander, Locus Amoenus, is a delight to read. It weaves an important modern-day tale while following the outline of William Shakespeare’s enduring tragedy, Hamlet. The Bard’s tale of Hamlet is a personal and community tragedy placed in a historical period in which the fight over the control of Hamlet’s native country ultimately leads to its subjugation to a foreign country. The characters woven into the Locus Amoenus story are no less tragic than Shakespeare’s, and the reader is left wondering just how the world of Alexander’s characters could have avoided being seduced into a current-day form of subjugation when the curtain comes down. Throughout her witty narrative, the author’s wry humor adds levity to her tale of today’s Hamlet. Continue reading
Reviewers are calling Locus Amoenus, “one of the funniest political satires of our time,” the 2015 novel that “everyone needs to read,” and ” a great book you will want to share with your friends.”
Victoria N. Alexander will be signing copies of Locus Amoenus at Brave New Books in Austin on Nov 27th, Black Friday, 7PM.
Brave New Books is “an amazing community of diverse and active people. We have politicos and anarchists, lefties and conservatives, but most importantly we are a bunch of curious people on a quest for the truth.”
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Locus Amoenus synopsis: In this dark comedy, a 9/11 widow and her son, Hamlet, have retreated from Brooklyn to the idyllic rural countryside upstate, where for nearly eight years they have run a sustainable farm. Unfortunately their outrageously obese neighbors, who prefer the starchy products of industrial agriculture, shun their elitist ways (recycling, eating healthy, reading). Hamlet, who is now 18, is beginning to suspect that something is rotten in the United States of America, when health, happiness and freedom are traded for cheap Walmart goods, Paxil, endless war, standard curriculum, and environmental degradation. He becomes very depressed when, on the very day of the 8th anniversary of his father’s death, his mother marries a horrid, boring bureaucrat named Claudius. Things get even more depressing for Hamlet when his friend Horatio, a conspiracy theorist, claims Claudius is a fraud. The deceptions, spying, corruption, will ultimately lead, as in Shakespeare’s play, to tragedy. Continue reading